There is no doubt that one of the most stressful things not only in the college process, but in life in general, is waiting. Whether you’re waiting for your order to come at a restaurant or waiting to find out whether or not you’ll be accepted to your top choice university, every second can feel like torture. You might find yourself counting down the days until you get your results, wanting nothing more than to have an answer and know whether or not you will get the opportunity to attend a certain school.

 

This being said, sometimes the day you receive your decision actually isn’t the end to all of this waiting. Whereas some students find out whether their application has been accepted or denied on the actual decision date, some students may receive a much less decisive outcome: they are waitlisted. This result might be frustrating—arguably worse than being rejected right off the bat is knowing that you’ll have to spend even more time waiting in limbo, now knowing whether or not you will get in.

 

While waitlisting might not be the outcome you were hoping for, it’s certainly not the end of the world. You might find yourself wondering what this status really means. The truth is, the number of students who are waitlisted changes from year to year, so it’s impossible to say how many people will get waitlisted at a certain school. The number can range anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred. While unfortunately we can’t give you an exact figure on exactly how many students are waitlisted (even colleges don’t always publicize this information, though some do on their websites), you can check out this post for more info on what it means to be waitlisted and how you can find out more about your school’s waitlist policies.

 

Why was I waitlisted?

 

If you are waitlisted, it essentially means that a college or university may consider admitting you in the case that there ends up being space among the incoming class. While many students might be accepted to a given university, not all students decide to attend that school. Perhaps they were given a better financial aid offer somewhere else, or perhaps they decided that the school would not be right for them. Whatever the case, sometimes schools end up having spots left over in a class that they need to fill. This is where waitlisted applicants come into play!

 

The details and procedures involved with a waitlist will vary from school to school, so if a school that you really want to attend happened to have waitlisted you, your best bet for more information would be to call the admissions office or check their website. Most websites will have statistics telling you what percentage of students are typically admitted off of the waitlist.

 

While it’s important to stay optimistic, it’s also important to note that in most cases, waitlist admission is a long shot. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you think it’s worth putting in the effort to take a waitlist spot and work to get admitted.

 

If the school that you were waitlisted from happens to be the college that you’ve dreamed of attending since elementary school, then it’s probably worth taking a spot on the list. However, if the school in question is simply one among a number of schools you might have applied to, or if you’re not even sure you would want to attend, perhaps take a moment to consider what you might be gaining from taking a spot on the waitlist. Chances are, you probably have at least a few other great options in terms of which school to attend, so it might be in your best interest to focus on these types of options rather than pinning your hopes on something that you’re not even sure you want.

 

Evaluating waitlisting data and terms

 

When you look at admissions data for a particular school, it’s important to be able to understand the statistics, data, and terminology that might be presented to you:

 

Acceptance rate: this is the overall percentage of applicants who are offered admission to a given school. This number includes individuals who were admitted early decision, admitted regular decision, and admitted off of the waitlist.

 

Yield: this is the overall percentage of applicants who are offered admission that actually end up attending. As the yield depends upon how many students decide to accept their offer of admission to a given school, this number will vary from year to year.

 

Waitlist rate: this will usually be the percentage of applicants who are offered waitlist status (as opposed to being accepted or denied).

 

Waitlist size: this is usually the number of applicants who accept waitlist status and decide to take a place on the waitlist.

 

Waitlist acceptance rate: this is the percentage of applicants given waitlist status who were then admitted off the waitlist.

 

Researching your school’s waitlist

 

When looking up information about the waitlist of a given school, be sure to use official sources first. Your school’s admission website, the admissions office, and reputable publications should have a decent amount of information in order to better help you understand your chances. Be sure to exercise caution in terms of what sources you trust—not all information that you find about a given school or its waitlisting process will be accurate.

 

Remember to keep in mind that admission and waitlist statistics can vary from year to year, so the amount of students accepted off the waitlist this year might end up being vastly different from the amount that were accepted last year. In addition, waitlist statistics might not be available for every school—some schools also choose not to publish this information. If this is the case, it’s best to approach the issue with the assumption that you probably won’t get in off the waitlist (as opposed to listening to rumors on forums or through word of mouth).

 

What to do next

 

Regardless of whether or not you decide to accept a spot on a school’s waitlist, your first step should be to officially inform the school of your decision. If you want to accept a spot on the waitlist, be sure to understand the school’s procedures and policies. Again, these will vary from school to school, so be sure to read up on the school’s website or contact the admissions office with any questions or concerns.

 

If you are able, you may also want to consider updating the school with any new accomplishments, test scores, or letters of recommendation that you might have. Though you may not know exactly how many other waitlisted students you’re stacked up against, putting forth your best representation of yourself by sending a passionate, informative, and well-written waitlist letter can only improve your chances.

 

More resources

 

For more information about waitlists and waitlisting issues, check out these blog posts:

 

I Was Waitlisted — What Do I Do Now?

What Are My Chances of Getting in Off the Waitlist?

How to Get Off the Wait List

 

You can also take a look at CollegeVine’s waitlist assistance page.

Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow